Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vacation Fun at the Smoky Mountains

My poor readers....you probably are wondering what has happened to me! I've been busy with shop stuff, traveling to see the twins and going to Columbus needlework market. Then, the twins arrived a few weeks ago and last week we took off for Pigeon Forge and the great Smoky Mountains. You may have read this previous post about an Anniversary trip to the Pigeon Forge area. We enjoyed our cabin stay so much that we planned another trip and shared this cabin with cousins and kids from Kentucky, my sister and her granddaughter from Florida and my other sister from Chicago. This time we rented a 3-bedroom cabin that also had bunk beds and a pull out sofa sleeper in the lower level for all the kids.

It was one big party for them down there, each and every day. We each took responsibility for one evening's dinner, cooking and cleaning up. This way, there was no hassle wondering what to eat or where to go. We were able to fully enjoy our vacation.

Our first trip away from the cabin included a visit to  Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg. My cousin had been to this aquarium before and highly recommended the place and I have to agree.  It was one of the best aquariums I've ever been to. An outstanding feature of this place was the ride through the shark tank. When you first enter the room, you are above the tank and are thrilled when you see the sharks swim by.  But the best part is when you walk down below and step onto a conveyor that slowly guides you beneath the tanks. You get a birdseye view of the fish in their natural habitat that you've never seen before.
You can see a sword-nosed shark resting on top of the plexiglass tunnel in the picture above as the people are moved through the tunnel into the next area. In the picture to your right, there are several sharks swimming around. The entire time in this underground marvel, I kept hearing in my head the, "Da dum da dum" from the Jaws movie. To see those sharp teeth up close and right in front of my eyes was thrilling. I loved this section of the aquarium so much, that when we had gone through the entire building, we had to go back through the shark exhibit.

We saw all kinds of fish: helmet crabs, sea horses, Nemo, Cuttlefish, Jellyfish, sea turtles and some huge Japanese Spider Crabs. Of course, the twins picked up the helmet crabs and petted the sting rays and had a wonderful experience. If you ever get the chance to visit, it would be worth your while!

We also took several trips up the Smoky Mountains, hiking and looking for streams and waterfalls. We did find several and the kids enjoyed splashing in the cool, spring water.

We  returned to Newfound Gap, the highest point near the center of the Smoky Mountains. There you can stand with one foot in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina. We hiked a bit around this area, climbing sections of the Appalachian Trail and taking in the beauty around us.

There was an art class up on the mountains, working on their assignment for the day. It was wonderful to see the artists enjoying their work. I stopped to speak with the woman in the picture below and she told me the students were all fairly new to painting. Hard to believe when you see how beautiful her canvas is.

What a different view we had last week, compared with last January. It was cold and snow packed up at Newfound Gap last year and we had to wear our heavy winter jackets. This trip, the air was cool and breezy. A far cry from the 100 degree temps down in town!

Next post, I'll show you a few more pictures from our trip. I do love this part of the country and hope we make this a biennial get together with our family.